Attribution vs Persuasion – Forum Responses



RESPONSE 1 (Bonita): The media has the potential to influence the public’s attitudes and behavior by emphasizing strong points in personal characteristics, material products, belief systems or appeal to criteria that they want to project unto the general public. On the other hand, they simultaneously downplay negative aspects of products, hide characteristic flaws, and potential harm of viewpoints. I think this can be taken to the extreme in dealing with sales of merchandise where competition and profits are at stake, and ethical guidelines are blurred as to consequences or loss. I think a “quick sell” is the mindset of individuals and corporations advertising in the media where profit and sales is the desired outcome of their motivation and integrity and conscientiousness is ruled out. By portraying products, or even candidates as glamorous, and in attractive settings with appealing backgrounds, hip music, lots of lights and action, anything would be made appealing and deemed useful for personal use. The idea that a product can make a person feel young, energetic, happy, content, refreshed, revitalized, sexually attractive and appealing would capture anyone’s eye and seemingly want to buy whatever it is they are selling. Unfortunately, most of us realize that that is not the case, and we would be wasting our money to indulge in such products, or salesmen. I think, while news programs are supposed to report the facts, I believe there is bias to reporting in that intonation and background play a major part in how the viewer perceives a broadcast or news information. I also think it depends on the person. As stated in “The Social Animal” self-esteem is one variable that marks whether or not a person is influenced by data. Self esteem can result from many factors, education being one of them. Family background and social influences are another, either building or negatively impacting self esteem. I think television can produce social events as in the well publicized aggression studies. I think violence on TV causes us to be immune to crime and/or normalizing it whereas it becomes just another event in day to day life. In reality, statistics show that actual crime rates show 3.97 per 1000 in the United States (U. S. Violent Crimes, n.d.). It seems like every channel has a murder or sexual assault going on. Crime is sensationalized in that it is all about glamorous men and women in high profile situations, distorted facts, glamorous crime fighters and sensationalized court systems. The impression is that it’s O. K. to commit a crime, as long as you don’t get caught.

The sad part is, there’s a lot of good out there that is public interest, and media could be reporting on those issues and events, as well as human disaster. To make an hour news show more interesting, it has to play on our emotions, otherwise they wouldn’t get the feedback and opinion polls that keep them in business. The sad part is these things do happen, but I think that public appeal warrants a positive message and more direct communication, such as classroom education, community events, and quality air time that is acceptable for all viewers.

United States Violent Crimes. (n.d.) Retrieved from

RESPONSE 2 (Kenneth): The following can be a sensitive topic so I will tread lightly here.  Citing recent events in the confirmation hearings of now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, I would say that the message a media channel or entertainment channel would project is dependent on their collective ideation.  When accusers made allegations of possible rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment against Justice Kavanaugh, CNN, MSNBC, The View, etc., pushed the message that it was all factual, based off the retellings of the accusers. Fox News (which usually seems to stand alone), didn’t push the 100% different narrative. Instead, they retold the events from the point of views of possible eye-witnesses and Justice Kavanaugh’s perspective.  

It’s somewhere in the middle of this that we find a likely truth.  What I, and others witnessed, was a polarization of consumers.  Those who supported the accusers seemed to do so based off no facts, evidence, or proof that the proposed events took place.  Those who sided behind Justice Kavanaugh did so under the same standards of probability.  The story of the accusers was all pushed and supported through new key buzzwords and phrases such as, “tell her truth” and #metoo.  The otherside came back with #standwithkavanaugh and #himtoo.  This is an extreme example, but as soon as the narratives ran their respective courses, they went away.  They were no longer cool since everyone had chosen a side, it seemed.  With celebrities pushing and supporting a story, the American public fell in line.  If you went with one story or the other, you were shamed by the masses of the opposing group.  I will point out here that I am not advocating for one narrative or the other.  What I am saying is that a populace was divided by a media machine that presented no supporting or contradicting facts or evidence on either side.  The media fed the nation a dramatic and elaborate he-said-she-said story and the nation chose sides based off their most preferred source of news and information.

Something that bothers me with the above example is that it was packaged to be a personal issue at the individual consumer level.  It was cool to support the accusers, and it was cool support to Kavanaugh, however, I will agree that support for the accusers seemed to have better cooler packaging.  The overall persuasive effect of the media on their respective consumer market has reached astounding levels.  It almost looks as if a lemming effect has taken over people as a group.  At the individual level, people seemed to agree that this is the case, but they almost instinctively follow the group when in a like-minded environment that justifies their beliefs.  Yes, I do believe the media can get the masses to buy a product or agree with a mindset.  I do believe they sell it to us through sex or cool or shame, depending on what the story is and how they want us to think about it. 

RESPONSE 3 (Matthew): Mass media influences the public’s perception of events, which then in turn helps shape the public’s altruistic beliefs and opinions.  At first, the media may appear to report on a topic, but its selective story telling will eventually influence the public’s perception, which then can distort reality.  To start, news agencies draw their audience in by specifically showcasing more exciting, devastating, and sometimes violent articles in the beginning of their show, which then spikes the attention of the viewer.  As Aronson mentioned, 53% of newscasts center on events directly tied to human suffering, and those events are often portrayed within the first few minutes of the broadcast.  This creates the perception that certain events are more catastrophic than they actually are, and whether intentional or not, this causes some viewers to believe those events will affect them.  Afterall, news broadcasting is a form of entertainment.  To note, emotional contagions occur frequently enough that Aronson believes that news stations alter future events by selectively emphasizing certain topics, and I agree.  This was noted with the Tylenol scare, which caused mass amounts of people to live in fear of copycat poisonings.  Some towns even banned Halloween out of the fear of the safety of their children.  Another example that I’m reminded of, stems from Walter Cronkite’s coverage of the Vietnam war, specifically after the Tet Offensive.  Believe it or not, Ho Chi Minh was considering surrendering.  But after hearing a staunch conservative talk in conundrums about the potentially mindless conflict, Ho Chi Minh decided to keep pressing forward.  He realized that the media’s negative coverage would eventually surface throughout the populace, and then cripple governmental support.

This topic is further perpetuated when companies endorse high ranking athletes or certain companies to push a product.  This is accomplished by the recency of and consistency of seeing or hearing about a product, which then makes it appear more attractive as Zajone stated.  With increased exposure, people will tend to gravitate towards something because it feels familiar.  Thus, we’re exposed to constant periphery that persuades us to side with a topic or product out of familiarity.  This is seen with different news channels, as well as product advertisement companies that selectively target audiences.  For instance, as Leventhal found, communication involving high amounts of fear, followed by a credible person that seemed to have a solution, is enough to play on the emotional appeals of a group and get them to side with your message or product.  Going back to the news, it would behoove them to specifically target an audience, induce fear, offer a solution, bring in a credible looking individual for a discussion, and then whilst waiting to hear about that solution, cut to a commercial that was aiming to sell a product.  Consequently, if that commercial’s product just so happened to align with the possible solution from this credible individual, or could relate to it, it goes to say that sales should increase.  Here, the news station would profit from increased ratings, and the company that paid for the commercial would receive profits.  This process then becomes an ever-evolving cycle, where things are sold back to the populace, as the Merchants of Cool video so blatantly stated.  After all, pictures and vivid images that we can relate to, stay with us.  Other instances center on the endorsement of political candidates that convey emotional messages, and to those who just so happen to spend the most money to campaign.  To mimic Aronson, if the media could impart a relatable and vivid example, that example would be hard to break, as its influence would be deep seeded, and our natural tendency would then be to reject contradictory evidence, even if statistical.  In all, the media either uses fear, coolness, or the mention of instability, to entice a reaction and shape attitudes.

             I personally believe that the majority of media outlets attempt to deliberately persuade personnel with various forms of propaganda.  Now I don’t think they intend to this with topics such as the coverage of fights and its relation to homicides, nor with the coverage of suicides which then spikes further suicide.  But, I believe they actively engage in these acts because they disguise information in the form of education, yet never truly have solid debates involving too opposing viewpoints where each proponent is evenly matched.  This even stems into information videos concerning channels such as National Geographic.  For instance, when the Brits create a documentary, they utilize an actual scientist.  When the Americans do it, they pay a well-known actor to voice the entire thing.  Now, is this to increase ratings, or is it to entice potentially younger audiences that such subjects are cool, especially if a cool actor is doing it?  One could argue that the attractiveness of these broadcastings change drastically, because the media is trying to sell something.   

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